The University of Newcastle, Australia

Book Launch: Doubtful Readers by Dr Erin McCarthy

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Digital humanist with the School of Humanities and Social Science and the Centre for 21st Century HumanitiesDr Erin McCarthy has found a unique way to launch her newly published book, Doubtful Readers: Print, Poetry, and the Reading Public in Early Modern England.

Doubtful Readers book

Dr McCarthy had planned to launch her book in Philadelphia last week at the Renaissance Society of America meeting. However, the conference was cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead McCarthy hosted a ‘virtual launch’ online, sponsored by the Society for Renaissance Studies (UK) and held on Crowdcast. Watch a replay of the launch.

Dr McCarthy said despite the time and physical distance, the launch was a success with at least 92 people tuning in from US, the UK, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand, plus more.

“The event was organized by Dr Rachel Willie (Liverpool John Moores University) and Dr Daniel Starza Smith (King’s College London). It featured remarks from Professor Marie-Louise Coolahan (National University of Ireland Galway), who led the RECIRC project, and Professor Joshua Eckhardt (Virginia Commonwealth University),” she said.

Doubtful Readers was published in February 2020 by Oxford University Press, and it considers early modern publishers' efforts to identify and accommodate new readers of verse that had previously been restricted to particular social networks in manuscript. The book emphasises the critical and editorial agency of early modern publishers and offers a revisionist literary history that treats canonical and non-canonical works, including those written for and by women.

The genesis of the book was sparked when Dr McCarthy was investigating the revision of John Donne’s poems between 1633 and 1635.

“They were reprinted in 1635 in a totally reorganised edition and sorted into new categories. I wondered why anyone would go to the trouble of rearranging the book only two years after it was first printed. In doing this research I tried to find a book on early modern poetry printers and couldn’t find the definitive book about early modern printed poetry collections, so I decided that I would focus my book on that topic.”

“The main argument of the book is that print help shaped a new pool of potential readers. We hear a lot that poets didn’t want their work to be printed but printed books have shaped our sense of who these authors were and what English literature itself is. They need to be taken seriously in their own right and that is what this book aims to do,” Dr McCarthy said.


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